/ by Matt
Move over Z Brush, take a hike topology brush, because Blender now has a new high-end tool that’s sure to impress. Presenting: The monkey brush! With just a few strokes of the mouse, your meshes can now be transformed into primate-y goodness! (MPEG4 video)
What you’re seeing is actually a really neat new feature that’s been added in Blender in the recent Shape Keys rewrite. Shapes, previously known as RVKs and in other apps as ‘Blend Shapes’ or ‘Morph Targets’ have recently had an overhaul to become a lot clearer, easier and faster. Adding new shapes to a mesh is as simple as clicking ‘Add Shape Key’, moving your model into its new shape, then adjusting that shape’s influence with a slider, which automatically inserts keyframes for you.
Now the interesting part is that we now have a new feature (not mentioned in that doc) - using vertex groups to control the weighting of each shape on the final result. Not only can we control the amount of influence that the shape has in general, but we can now also control where that influence is applied. This is great for a number of reasons. It means we can now model an entire face completely in its expression, and then split up the sub-components (eyes, mouth, nose, whatever) after the fact, using weights. Previously this was the other way around, having to model each little part on its own. This made it a lot harder to get a really nice, expressive look because you couldn’t see what the final result of all the blending would be. And of course it’s possible to ‘bake’ those weighted shapes into a new shape of its own, just by pressing the ‘Add Shape Key’ button while in the blended state.
Now of course this will be a boon for animation, but I’ve also had a few silly ideas on how this can be abused for other purposes :)
Pseudo mesh construction history states:
While modelling, you can keep saving shapes along the way while adjusting proportions and looks (as long as you don’t change the mesh topology). Then it’s easy to flip through the different versions that you’ve made to decide what you like best, and even blend bits by painting - “oh, I like the ears from two versions ago, but last version’s nose is much better” … paint, paint paint, and done.
If you’ve been modelling in mirror mode and want to get rid of the ugly symmetry, you can make a new shape, select random vertices and scale along normals (Alt S) to randomise your mesh. Then if you go back to the basis and paint on the randomised shape in small amounts, you can nudge a bit of asymmetry into your model, where and when you want it, and all non-destructively.
Hackish displacement painting tool:
By making a new shape and scaling it out along normals to inflate it, you can then go back to the basis and paint on the fattened mesh, which will push the vertices out. You can then even invent various different ‘brushes’ which you can paint on, for example a spiky version of your shape to make a rougher looking brush, a moved version of your shape for a ’smudging’ brush.
I’m sure you can think of all sorts of interesting things yourself, too. Let us all know in this thread! But if you’d like to give the monkey brush a try, open up this .blend file in a recent bf-blender CVS build, set the weight slider to 0, start painting, and off you go.